He nodded, and drew in the snow the track of a bear several times larger than any I had ever seen. “Ursus,” he said, taking off his helm. “Some always trail the column. We leave garbage, waste, our dead. Now these trail those that separated.”
His hair was green, the bright shade that algae sometimes takes. “Even so high?” I asked, to cover my surprise. Other than the column, I had seen no other living thing in days.
“These are starving. Such creatures wander far, and many valleys feed them.”
I said that he knew more about them than the Historians, who had thought even smilodons extinct.
He laughed and smiled. “I was a teacher of small children. They are always interested in these kinds of animals.”
I was amazed. “And what animals are they?” I asked, thinking of the Profusion.
“Pleasure creatures,” he said. “Those designed for hunting and for sport. They’re often large and fierce, though mastodons were once peaceful.”
“I’ve been asking questions of the wrong man.”
He closed his eyes. “Perhaps you’ve been asking him the wrong questions.”
But I would not let him go. “There are other valleys like the one we found? Like the valley of the first Faith, to house these beasts?”
“And many you have not seen, I think. No animal lives alone, and seldom in one place. Even your own people, do they truly only live in cities? They leave these mountains unexplored?”
“The cities of the Profusion protected us, perhaps from all these animals,” I laughed. “You’re the first Never-born to ask me any question about this time.”